Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spa-aahhhh, Belgium

By Liv

Now, let's get something straight: I really enjoyed Paris. But let's be honest here, it's big and busy and pretty un-relaxing. Our hotel was fairly economical, which meant that it was a 2-star accommodation and our room was barely large enough for Nick and I to both be in the room at the same time, unless one of us stood on the bed. I'm serious!

This made things is a bit difficult with a crawling baby. There was nowhere for her to explore! So you can understand my excitement to head out of the big city and to a smaller town - and hopefully a larger hotel room.

Nick did a wonderful job finding us lodging in Spa, Belgium, which is about halfway between Paris and home (Neustadt, Germany). We drove about 4 hours today and landed at a beautiful Bed & Breakfast operated by probably the nicest people. I'm so glad that we are here. Our room is huge, spacious and beautifully decorated. The house is amazing, clean and just lovely! There is a huge backyard that has a play structure for kids and a sandbox and a beautiful bright green lawn. We took Stella out to play in the sand and grass and she was in heaven. I figured it's the least we can do after making her sit in the car for so long :)

I can't wait to post more photos from Spa, Belgium. Hopefully our next blog will be about some wonderful spa services that we have enjoyed while here!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


(Click this slideshow to see the entire image width)

By Liv

I type this with enthusiasm because all three of us were overwhelmingly happy to arrive in Paris... and the main reason was because it was a very long drive and someone (not to name any names, Stella...) decided that she was ready to get out of the car about an hour before we arrived... poor baby!

We made it up to her, though. In Paris, we have:

• Gone to the French Open - It was totally rad. I watched Hennin play. I can't wait to see another Grand Slam!
• Seen the Eiffel Tower and taken a million pictures of Stella in front of it.
• Seen and toured the Louvre (Stella slept through this. She totally doesn't appreciate great art...)
• Eaten at least 3 pastries a day... each.
• Taken Stella on her first carousel. I'm pretty sure Nick had more fun than Stella.
• Walked and walked and walked, taken the subway/metro, and walked some more!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

5 hours on the Autobahn to Würzburg, Germany

(Click this slideshow to see the entire image width)

By Liv

I swear those five hours shaved a few years off of my life. German drivers on the Autobahn are very good drivers, but they drive ridiculously fast. And, of course, Nick decided that he needs to drive "like a German" even though we have a 3-cylinder rental car. I bet we were the only people going that fast that weren't driving a Mercedes!

Our first road trip in Germany was to Southern Germany, to a town called Würzburg. One of our dear friends, Hilde, is from Würzburg and was heading back to visit her family, so we met her there and stayed one night in her Brother's hotel right near the center of town.

Hilde took us through the town and gave us a wonderful tour filled with stories of her life during the war. We are thankful to have such a lovely friend and to be able to share a day with her and her family while listening to stories and memories in such a historic town.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Milestone time: first sign!

We had decided to teach Stella sign language before she was born. We read research that confirmed that babies who sign often are less frustrated (and therefore cry less) because they can communicate long before they can speak. Also, studies have shown that signing babies' speech is enhanced and by the age of eight, signing babies scored higher on IQ tests than non-signing peers. We are hoping that this coupled with teaching her tennis will be all we need for a full college scholarship. Hey, we can dream, can't we? :)

Stella signed back to us for the first time on May 17th. She signed "more" because she wanted me to give her some more food. I can't begin to explain my excitement! The next day, she signed "dog" as we were reading a book with a dog in it. We are really impressed and have started adding in even more signs to our vocabulary.

So far, she can recognize (but not replicate) these signs: milk, eat, bed, hat, book, bird, stop and cat. We can't wait to post more videos of her signing milestones. This whole "being a parent" thing is definitely a learning experience for both her and us!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hannover and Stella's new ride

Hannover is a short train ride from Neustadt - about 20 minutes. But, in order to get to the train, we have to walk about 20 minutes, so every time we want a Hannover trip, it's kind of a big hooplah for us! We decided that it was time to buy a stroller for Stella, and as you can see in the photos, she loves it. So much in fact, that her excitement was quickly countered with a deep sleep in her new ride.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A few things that are happening in our lives

By Liv

Neustadt is treating us well. The town itself is small and it seems like there is a "holiday" at least once a week when all the businesses are closed and the streets are empty. I still haven't figured out where everyone goes on those days.

Stella is almost 10 months old. Some of her recent achievements include: pulling herself to standing using anything in sight: chairs, stools, your pant legs; and crawling like a madwoman. We can't stop her! She also has started using sign language for "dog" and "more". We have been signing with her since she was a newborn, but this is the first time that she has replicated the signs. She recognizes the signs for "milk" and "eat" but hasn't yet been able to replicate those ones.

She also is starting to say more - imagine that! She says, "Mama, Daddy, Mom, bye-bye" and if you ask her what a cow says, she replies, "Mooooo!"

We have taken the train to Hannover as a family once, and Nick went by himself once. We went to take care of our visa paperwork and had a great time walking around the big city and checking out some of the many big stores and fashion centers. It's amazing how bustling a big city seems after living in such a quiet place for just a few short weeks.

One of the first things that I think of when considering a vacation or a big move is food. I love to cook and I love to eat even more! German food is something that I am not quite used to. There is a never-ending amount of pork in the grocery store, and being a non-pork-eater, I have found it difficult to find other options on my shopping trips. But I am quickly learning how to recognize some of the few ingredients that I am used to.

While walking through town, I noticed that many of the restaurants are advertising some type of white asparagus as part of their seasonal menu. So I checked them out online and it turns out that they are a German delicacy. Of course this meant that I HAD to try to cook them! I called my friend, Hilde, who is German, and asked her for some cooking advice. My first attempt at German white asparagus was a success, although I wouldn't say they were the best thing I've ever made. We paired them with schnitzel, of the chicken variety and some german boiled potatoes.

In the meantime, Nick has been trying to find some German language classes or tutors for us so we can expand our vocabulary because so far, we are able to just get by with our speaking skills. We could definitely use some improvement!

We miss everyone and look forward to posting some more stories as they arise. Love from the three of us to you!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stella's professional photos

We absolutely adore these photos taken by (These were taken a few months ago, but I kind of forgot to post them :)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A little movie about our adventure

I put together a little movie with photos and videos of our journey from New York City to Neustadt, Germany - and everything in between! To see the movie, click here

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Neustadt am Rübenberge

By Liv

We arrived safely to our final destination in Germany. The town we are staying in is relatively small (45k people). We are staying at our good friend's (Paul's) Grandfather's house. The house is beautiful and we are thankful to have more space to move around in. 14 days in a cruise cabin was enough to remind us how lucky we are to have such lovely living spaces.

We are within walking distance to a Fred Meyer's-sized grocery store, which makes for convenient meal planning, even if we look and sound like utter fools trying to blabber out our wannabe German :) It takes me about five times longer than normal to go grocery shopping because I have to stare at labels and use a dictionary to figure out what I am buying. I'm sure the locals think I'm nuts, or really dense!

Within minutes of getting off the train in Neustadt, we noticed that the majority of commuters use bicycles to get around town. Luckily, Paul's Grandfather has a few bikes already, so we are able to use those. One of the neighbor's, Sigfried, was given a heads up that we were going to be staying here, so he came and introduced himself and has been incredibly helpful, even if we don't understand a word he says. It's amazing how much can be said using hand gestures!

Today I started my new resolution, which is a goal to be able to run 10 miles consecutively before we leave Germany in September. On my run this morning, I went past the grocery store and noticed that the entire parking lot was filled with people and things. It was the largest community garage sale I have ever seen! Imagine a parking lot for a store the size of Wal-Mart. Then, imagine nothing in that lot but tables with stuff for sale. There must have been a few thousand people in there!

At the sale, we scored a jogging stroller (which is rad, because we were just browsing online and they were upwards of $300 euros!) a baby bike seat (so we can ride with Stella on the back of one of our bikes), a baby bike helmet, a bunch of fun baby toys including wood lego looking things and some German-word baby books. We figured the books would double as learning tools for us, too.

The weather here has been great since we arrived - sunny and slightly windy during the day and about 60-65 degrees. We are looking forward to starting some German language lessons and meeting up with some English-speaking Mom's groups in the area.

We hope everyone is doing well back home and look forward to hearing from you!

PS - if you miss chatting with us as much as we miss chatting with you, you should find us on skype so we can talk or video chat. Our skype sign in names are: Livia416 and NickTostenrude

Munich, Germany

By Liv

From Venice, we boarded a high speed train (about 150 mph) to Munich. We passed through the Alps and Austria and vowed to make another trip to Austria one day. The views from the train were breathtaking. Small villages, beautiful snow-topped mountains and churches built in to the side of mountains, or on the top of a mountain that would seem impossible to climb, yet alone build a church on.

This train ride was particularly difficult for Stella. She has been working on her bottom two teeth and the nonstop travel has made it difficult for her to get any good naps in during the day. But we arrived in Munich in the same number of pieces that we were when we boarded the train, made our way to our hotel and collapsed in to a night of restful relaxation.

It soon dawned on us that we needed to learn German. Although some people in Munich speak English, we knew that the town we were headed to was not as large as Munich and our chances of finding another person to talk to (besides each other) was next to none. We practiced our German every time we went out to eat, but we were almost always simply blabbering :)

While in Munich, we took in some of the local sights including a huge farmer's market with bright and exotic produce and cheeses. On our way home, we stopped at a park and enjoyed an afternoon of playing in the grass with Stella. She's been a trooper through all of this change and craziness. We really have been impressed and look forward to showing her even more great trips and sights soon.

Venice, Italy

By Liv

Leaving the ship brought on some mixed emotions for me. Excitement and optimism for the adventure ahead, but I must admit that I really enjoyed *not* cooking and cleaning for 14 whole days.

Our hotel room was situated just outside of Venice, in a town called Maestre. Our hotel room was nice and seemed HUGE in comparison to our little cruise ship cabin that we had been in for the previous two weeks. Upon arrival, we stopped in at the continental breakfast (as we had checked in early in the morning) and I was beyond thrilled to taste something besides the usual fare on the cruise.

The orange I first ate was the most amazingly delicious piece of fruit that I've ever tasted. It was followed by a marmalade-filled croissant that might be illegal in some countries. Since that morning, I had the pleasure of tasting the most delicious of all these dishes: spaghetti with clams in an olive oil sauce, margherita pizza, panini sandwich with prosciutto and olives, lasagna with creamy meat sauce and mouth-watering spaghetti with meat sauce.

AND THE WINE. Red wine with dinner was about 3 Euros for a half liter. It was cheaper than water!

For the next two days, we took water taxis and trains all around town. We visited Venice and ate more than necessary. We took a water taxi to the island of Murano, where glass blowing is the local art form. We ate too much while in Murano, too :)

We visited St. Mark's Square and Cathedral, and Stella got a kick out of watching the birds fly around her.

We finished our stay in Italy by eating, yet again, way too much food at a local restaurant and washing it down with some more delicious wine.

I was sad to leave Italy because I knew that the food was the best I'd ever had, but looked forward to the next adventure!